Book ghostwriter or coauthor?
What’s the difference between a book ghostwriter or coauthor, or a manuscript editor?
By Graciela S., professional ghost writer par excellence at Ghost Writer, Inc.
Surely, there isn’t a major change when you move on from ghost writing to coauthor status? As far as the writing goes, there’s no difference. But in your association with your client, there’s a world of difference.
Whether you’re the book ghostwriter or coauthor, your job is to work with your client. You have to get her messages across. It’s a collaboration. You may take her input and write the entire book yourself, if you have this degree of freedom. Or it may end up a back and forth process. She gives you a rough draft, which you modify and send back.
What does my book ghostwriter or coauthor do?
She makes changes and additions and returns it. You edit her changes and add new material. And so it continues, each of you taking a turn until the final draft is done. And both of you feel satisfied with the end result. As a co-author or ghostwriter, you follow this process. Or you develop whatever writing and revising process works best for you and your client.
Where the difference comes in is how your client regards you. If you are the invisible, unknown writer behind the scenes, you’re technically a ghostwriter. If you’re a publicly known collaborator, then you are a coauthor. However, being a book ghostwriter or coauthor can mean you do both…while understanding the difference. You may run the byline, “As told to (your name)” underneath the author’s name on the book cover, for example. This implies that you ghost wrote the book. But that you achieved partial coauthor status.
Hiring a ghost or coauthor – what are the rules?
The biggest distinction between the two roles involves a not-so-trivial matter called confidentiality. Some authors who hire professional writers don’t want others to know they’re getting help. It’s a matter of image or perception. For various reasons, there’s a genuine need for the perception that the author is the sole creator. These authors will seek out ghostwriters who know how to be discreet. For other authors, confidentiality isn’t an issue, so having a visible coauthor is perfectly acceptable.
A book ghostwriter, then, must be adept at working behind the scenes. He must take confidentiality seriously, which means he can’t tell people who he’s writing for. As he’s not allowed to disclose the name of his client, nor the specifics of the project. Once the book publishes, he can’t claim any ownership or association. On his resume he can merely state generalities such as, “I ghost wrote a book about new gardening techniques.” A book ghostwriter or coauthor will find differences in reputation, citation, and recommendations, in other words.
What is confidentiality when using a ghostwriter or coauthor?
Your book ghostwriter can’t divulge the title of the book, or the name of the author. With a coauthor, secrecy is not required. Since the coauthor’s name is listed on the cover right next to the author’s name, there’s no need to hide the collaboration. On her resume, the coauthor is free to list the book title and author.
Before you embark on a book collaboration with a client, understand the confidentiality expectations. Can you talk openly about the project, or does your client expect you to keep things under wraps? Knowing these conditions beforehand will keep you from putting your foot in your mouth and ruining your reputation. As a professional writer, it’s your job to work out all terms. This includes confidentiality, and whether you’re considered a book ghostwriter or coauthor before you start writing.
Graciela S. is a ghostwriter, editor, copywriter, proofreader, and translator. She has ghostwritten 23 books plus many shorter works. In addition, she coauthored Dream It Do It: Inspiring Stories of Dreams Come True, now available as an eBook on Amazon. Also, she’s written more than 300 nonfiction articles under her own byline. For contact purposes, email Karen S. Cole at Ghost Writer, Inc. Karen will put you in touch with her or another available ghostwriter, editor, marketer or other worker as needed. Thank you!